The immune system is designed to perform several functions. It defends the body against infections caused by bacteria, viruses, and fungi. It also protects against toxins and helps preserve health by maintaining immune balance against autoimmune and allergic diseases.
What is an antibody?
The immune system produces a protein called antibody when the body recognizes invading substances called antigens. An antigen can be any substance that is foreign to the body including microorganisms, chemicals, and even dust or pollen.
An antibody is a Y-shaped protein which attaches with lock and key precision to an antigen’s unique binding site. The binding of the antibody to the antigen triggers a cascade of immune response to prevent the antigen from doing any harm to the body.
What are the roles of antibodies?
The 3D structure of antibodies allows them to specifically bind to millions of different antigens that can possibly enter the body. This makes antibodies important in treatment, prevention, and even diagnosis of diseases.
Have you ever wondered why a child who develops measles or chicken pox does not get sick of the infection again? After the immune system fights the invading antigen, antibody-producing memory cells are created and stay in the body. The memory cells ensure that the body is prepared to quickly respond just in case it encounters that same antigen again.
The presence of antibodies in the body can also help doctors determine any past infections. For example, the presence of antibodies against hepatitis can indicate a previous infection or if the person currently has the infection.
Do you know that vaccines also rely on the concept of antibodies? During immunization, a segment of an antigen is introduced to the body in a way that it does not make the person sick but stimulates an initial immune response. The antibodies produced are like soldiers now present in the body and ready in case the real attack from that infection happens.
Can I enhance my child’s immune and antibody response?
Nutrition plays an important role in maintaining a healthy immune system. A mother’s nutritional status during pregnancy and early child nutrition have key roles in strengthening immunity. Nutrients that can boost the immune system include Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Iron, and Zinc.
New research also shows that exposure to good microbes called probiotics can enhance antibody response. In one study, the probiotic Bifidobacterium lactis Bb12 was shown to help increase antibody production in the tummy by up to 200%.
Other ways to keep the immune system healthy is through good hygiene, keeping the surroundings clean, avoiding stress, exercising, and getting enough sleep. A child is also recommended to receive vaccines appropriate for his age. This will give protection from vaccine-preventable diseases like influenza, pneumonia, diphtheria, polio, and measles.
Antibodies are proteins that play important roles in immunity by treating diseases and protecting a child’s future health. The immune and antibody response can be enhanced by good nutrition and healthy lifestyle. New studies on probiotics like Bifidobacterium lactis Bb12 also confers benefits in enhancing antibody response.
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